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Teamwork in Our World

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  • Pages: 8
  • Word count: 1948
  • Category: Life

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In the modern world, with its frantic business environments and constantly growing pressures, the importance of well-oiled teamwork is crucial. A well-organized team could achieve better result when each member works as a part of greater mechanism, pursuing the team goals rather than his or her personal goals. The efficiency of teamwork is affected by many factors, however, those that could have the most immediate effects on the outcomes of teamwork are time management, procrastination, and social loafing. In the following sections, the paper examines these influencing factors and studies the positive and negative effect that they might have on the efficiency of teamwork.

A) Time Management

Time management skills have become increasingly important determinants of success for managers and teams in the today’s organizations. Tight schedules, impending deadlines, shortage of resources, and other pressures have turned work into a constant challenge against time. According to Cottrell, time management is the process of planning and exercising control of time we spend on particular activities, with the goal of increasing productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness of work. The skill of time management requires a combination of different abilities from domains as diverse as personal interests, study, social life, employment, and commitments with fact that time is a finite resource. In modern organization, it is impossible to build an effective team of professionals without management in mind. Especially in such activities as project management, the development of a working project schedule and actually following it requires a great deal of time management skills both from a project team’s leader and all members of the team. Project Management Institute defines time management as “one of the core functions identified in project management.” The most important tasks of time management within organizations is to identify, report, and financially valuate sustainable, wasted, and effective time, while converting wasting time into productive time.

However, it is important to note that more time spent on the job does not always mean increased productivity. Evidence indicates that extra hours do not translate into increased productivity because of the levels of stress and tiredness undermine effectiveness of work. Modern corporate culture is becoming increasingly aggressively focused on the productivity in terms of hours worked, which could not only exhaust workers on a daily basis, but also lead to more serious consequences such as a loss of motivation to work and burning out. According to Olejniczak, a person who works less than five hours per day feels dissatisfied and frustrated, but excessive work hours, especially if a person is employed on the position that requires intense mental concentration, results in chronic tiredness that converts into increasing dissatisfaction and professional burnout. In order to prevent these negative outcomes of overworking, sensible time management practices should be applied in team environments that increased the productivity of work, not the number of hours worked.

So, how to ensure that a team that works on a project uses available time with maximum efficiency and that no one in that team feels like he or she works more than the others? To be fair, there is no universal answer to that question, because the approach to time management depends on the type of task and on the individuals in the team. However, there are some common practices that could boost time management in a team. For example, in her article for Harvard Business Review, Perlow suggests using the “structured-time-off goal” in order to provide team members with more control over their work time, reward outstanding performance, and reduce distractions in the working process. First, the approach increases predictability of working time in the modern unpredictable working environment by creating a time when team members know 100% that they will be off the clock or be establishing consistent workday hours. Second, the approach rewards workers that work very long hours with designated periods of time off during the normal working week.

Finally, third, the approach aims to reduce interruption in the working process: while the non-stop distractions come from meetings, many emails, and other sources, the structured-time-off approach seeks to provide quit uninterrupted time for every member of a team, so that they could focus on tasks that should be finished soon. Overall, in the world of many distractions and pressures, managing time in teams not always means allocating time for work, but also it is necessary to allocate and manage time for rest and concentration.

B) Procrastination

Procrastination is a universal phenomenon these days. Every person from delays some daunting, yet necessary, tasks in favor of more pleasurable activities or just to avoid the task. Olejniczak defines procrastination as “almost pathological delaying of tasks which should be dealt with now while engaging in more pleasurable or less troublesome activities.” When a team works on a project, there is obviously nothing wrong with a short break from time to time, but when an individual continues to procrastinate beyond the break time it harms productivity of an entire team. In his article, Ducharme cites David Ballard, head of the American Psychological Association’s Center of Organizational Excellence: “Procrastination is not just avoiding or delaying a task. It also has to include an aspect that’s counterproductive, irrational or unnecessary.” Considering the interdependence of team members, one procrastinating individual becomes a burden for the rest, in this way, dragging the overall efficiency of a team down.

The negative effects of procrastination could have far-reaching consequences, both on the individual and team levels. The tendency to delay tasks is reinforced by false perceptions that tomorrow the work will be easier or the will to complete it would be greater. At first, such delays might improve working mood and provide a feeling of relief. However, the realization that a task needs to be done sooner and sooner eventually causes stress and anxiety in team members, leading to a situation when they are not sure that they will be able to complete tasks on time and with due care. Moreover, Burka and Yuen note that some people might feel unsure about the validity of their ideas or be unable to generate ideas without the guidance provided by others. Such people require a strong leader who could take them under his or her wing and take the responsibility for their decisions. Because of that, a team leader should necessarily have this quality of responsibility taking in order to empower all members of a team for making their own decisions.

Addressing procrastination in team environments could be a challenging task, especially under the pressure of time. One of the fundamental steps on the way to eradicating procrastination is building a strong realization in every team member that his or her actions directly affect others and the outcome of the entire project. Using teambuilding activities could be a great way to facilitate this realization and the sense of dependability within a team. Belcher  suggests reward structures as an effective way to encourage teamwork and discourage procrastination in a team: in order to motivate team members to work together and avoid procrastination, a team leader could divide important tasks in a project into parts and assign teams of two or more to part, with completion of each part is rewarded by bonuses, additional time off or other incentives. As long as procrastination is a factor that affects the entire team, it should be dealt addressed on the team level also, not only on the level of individuals. However, it is also important that each team members receives feedback on his or her efforts, so that team members do not think that their efforts go unnoticed, which, by itself, could lead to procrastination and diminishing motivation.

Another way to reduce the pressure of procrastination on a team would be starting work anywhere. Even if the entire project seems to be complicated and daunting, the very fact of starting work helps to ease the pressure felt before the team got started on the project. Simply beginning work tears down the great psychological barrier that separates planning to being from actually beginning. If the task seems to be too large to complete it, Combs suggests tackling individual tasks in 15-minutes bursts of activity, which helps to maximize the outcome, while minimizing tiredness and exhaustion. However, it is necessary that a team leader could ensure discipline within the team, so that pauses between those 15-minute bursts do not turn into hours of procrastination.

C) Social Loafing

In teams, a majority of tasks are designed to be performed by a group of individuals, given a reasonable expectation that groups are more efficient than individuals. However, group performance does not always mean great performance and social loafing is one of the reasons for that. Rogelberg defines social loafing as “the reduction on motivation and effort that occurs when individuals work on a collective task as opposed to coactive or individual tasks.” Social loafing is detrimental to group performance and might be very costly to organizations. However, there are also less obvious consequences of social loafing that undermine productivity of a working ream. For example, when people are aware that their capable coworker is loafing, they often respond by reducing their own efforts to avoid being taken advantage of, which is also called “retributive loafing”. Even those coworkers who increase their own performance in order to compensate for their loafing colleague eventually induce only negative outcomes on their productivity, as their increased workload becomes detrimental to their performance and strains interpersonal relationships within a team.

The reasons for social loafing could vary greatly depending on an organizational culture, personal discipline of individuals, and on the type of work. However, as Rutte notes in her chapter on social loafing in teams, social loafing is most likely to occur when contributions of team members are not rewarded, which diminishes the value of work outcome, as well as the tendency to contribute. From this, a solution for the issue of loafing would be to make contributing into the success of a team rewarding. There are four types of rewards: external individual rewards, internal individual rewards, external collective rewards, and internal collective rewards. Every individual in a team might be rewarded individually with rewards that are financial or social in their nature. However, a more effective way to reduce social loafing is to reward team members collectively, after they achieve major milestones in projects. However, Rutte also stresses that collective rewards will only be effective if there is a direct relationship between the collectively received reward and the individually received reward. A team leader must ensure that connection to create a working environment that discourages loafing.

Other techniques of reducing social loafing might include the following important approaches. First, it is possible to reduce loafing by making tasks more meaningful for members of a team. A more difficult but more interesting task motivates an employee more than an easier but routine or poorly explained task. Hence, when the task is difficult, challenging, and meaningful for an individual, he or she is less likely to loaf. Then, another way to reduce loafing could be identifying the contribution of each member of a team. If team members are able to develop a strong belief that their contribution can be identified and evaluated by others, social loafing is likely to be eliminated within that team. Singh also suggests increasing the commitment of the members of the group to a successful task performance. If a task is really important to an individual, it is most likely that this individual will work harder to complete that task, motivating not only himself or herself to perform better, but also all coworkers. Combined with the above discussed technique of reducing social loafing, this would be a great way to motivate team members to give their best for the good of the entire team and success of the project.

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